Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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Humane Farming and the Neighbor's Dog

Are you still considered a humane farm if you shoot your neighbors’ dog for eating your layers?  We lost two of our newest layers on Christmas Day and two from the second youngest group, two days later.  It seems that the attacks are from a dog and because we live in a relatively populated area, our thought is that it is a neighbor's dog.

Once again, the hens that stayed inside the pens were not hurt.  We had one layer from the newest group that would fly out of the pen but would not fly back in at sundown.  When we got home from our real job, I would walk out in her direction and this hen would start walking towards me.  When we met up, she would just hunker down I would scoop her up and put her in the crook of my arm.  She would just be cooing away as I walked back to the pen and house.  She was content to have the ride and body warmth.  Once in the pen she would then go into the house and I would close the door.  I no longer have to look out for her; she is one of the missing.

We have already gone through a dog attack and nursed four injured birds back to health and laying eggs.  We had to take them out of "organic" status but it still made us feel good that we could nurse them back to health.  That time when I saw the dog, I got my gun and had the dog in the cross hairs of my scope.  I just could not pull the trigger and when I did, I aimed in front to scare the dog.

I shot so that dirt would kick up and startle the dog off.  We knew who the owner was but we had not really met these people.  I went and stopped by their house to talk to them.  I introduced our farm and myself and told them how I had seen their dog with one of our chickens.  They were very apologetic and offered to pay for the chickens.  Problem was I did not really know how much we spent on the bird and what revenue loss it represented. I had the statistics just not the costs.  If I focus on cost  much, it gets discouraging.  Therefore, I did not know how much we were out, so I told them that it would not be necessary but that I only ask that they keep their dog on their property.

I explained that County law allowed me to protect my livestock and that I had had a chance to shoot the dog but chose not to, “this time”.  We as humans exhibit micro-expressions.  These are our true feelings coming out as expressions on our face before our brain takes over and governs how we are to react in any given situation.  Nevertheless, there is that split second where you can see the persons’ true feelings, if you are looking.  My statement had the effect I wanted it to have, mainly fear.  Then anger took over and the husband started to get aggressive.   

Remaining calm was my secondary objective; my primary objective was to make them aware and understand the possible consequences.  I wanted them to know that there was a possibility that if they let their dog out, to roam free, it might not come back.  I explained that we are a humane farm and shooting an animal was the last thing we wanted to do, especially knowing it could be a family pet.  As an aside, I said “Each hen lays about eight-hundred eggs in a life time and that we sell a dozen for five-fifty each.  That does not count the cost of feed and care associated with the hen," I added.

This situation was one of those that we had not planned for or thought of way back when we talked about farming.  Like so many other aspects, you just do not know until the situation presents itself.  I flashed back, to a time when I was living in the city.  I remember one Thanksgiving Day, I was sixteen and someone knocked at our front door.  The person turned out to be the owner of a car that had hit my dog.  He had stopped his car, after he hit the dog, to render aid.  He saw the address on his collar realized he was close, came to the house, and told us.  My dog, which was still a puppy, was lying on the lawn five or six houses down.  I went to retrieve him, picked up his soft lifeless body and brought him to the back yard.  I got my dad’s shovel and started digging.  Tears streaming down my face, I lost track of what I was doing because after some time my father came out.  He asked if I was okay.  He knew I was not but seeing what I was doing, he asked if the hole I was digging was deep enough.  At the time I guess my thought was, as long as I kept digging then Chevy would still be with me.  He was under my care and his death was squarely on my shoulders.  He had gotten out underneath the fence where the rainwater culvert was.  I wrapped him in a blanket he used to sleep on and gently put him in the ground.  I carefully put one handful of dirt at a time over top of his small body.  He ended up being the last dog I ever owned.  I did not tell my neighbors this. I just wanted them to think there was the possibility that their dog would be shot if he was caught poaching our chickens.  We have not seen the dog since. 

The indications from the four we lost recently are that of dog attacks.  The rooster had tail feathers missing (which we found on the ground) and what looked like a bite mark.  We found one dead in the pen, which we think was injured outside, but was able to get back inside before she expired.  With hawks, you usually find bunches of feathers and little else.  With a dog you usually find an injured hen or four with more missing.

When presented with the decision before, I could not kill a dog.  If I see it, I will try to catch it to find its owner.  This time I will know and accept compensation.  If I cannot catch the dog and I do not recognize it as being from around here, I will have to face that bridge when I get to it.

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